Get the Facts: U.S. LNG Is One Solution For Global Energy Security, Emissions Reductions
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is the ultimate game changer for both energy security and emissions reductions worldwide. LNG has made its way into energy systems all over the globe, helping nations reduce their carbon footprint while also providing reliable supply in a flexible and speedy fashion.
American natural gas production has been crucial to U.S. LNG’s global expansion. Case in point, LNG provided much-needed support to European nations after gas shortages due to the Russian-Ukraine war.
Yet, anti-fossil fuel advocates have continued to spread disinformation and fuel false narratives that disparage natural gas and LNG, disregarding the fact that natural gas is a major contributor to reduced emissions in the power sector and improved air quality in the United States.
Below is a list of common myths spread about LNG and the facts that contradict those claims:
Fact #1: The abundance of U.S. natural gas and the ability to export LNG has transformed the global energy landscape.
Plentiful domestic natural gas production as a result of the Shale Revolution made it economical to liquify, transport, and export American natural gas while simultaneously bringing prices down at home. As a result, the United States catapulted from a non-exporter in 2015 to the world’s top exporter in 2023, helping promote energy security around the world.
Still, a handful of activists and members of Congress would like to bring the country back to the days of energy dependence. Activists frequently attack U.S. LNG with claims that LNG exports increase prices for American consumers. But in reality, increased natural gas production – and increased LNG exports – have coincided with lower consumer costs across the board.
Fact #2: U.S. LNG exports do not come at the expense of American consumers.
In 2018, the Department of Energy commissioned a study to evaluate the impact of U.S. LNG exports on domestic natural gas markets and on the country’s economy as a whole. Across each of the 54 scenarios evaluated, higher levels of LNG exports were projected to lead to higher levels of GDP and consumer welfare.
A lot has changed since the 2018 DOE study was published, and the country’s role as a natural gas producer and LNG exporter has only gotten more significant over the last five years. But even while domestic consumption climbed and natural gas exports skyrocketed, U.S. producers have consistently met demand by responsibly and efficiently increasing production:
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2023
Notably, the increase in natural gas exports did not consistently correlate with consistent increases in higher natural gas spot prices, which guide consumers’ immediate household energy costs. Spot prices did climb between 2020 and 2022 as demand around the world rebounded post-COVID and the leadup to the invasion in Ukraine disrupted supply. But by 2023, global natural gas markets had moved past the acute crisis and average spot price corrected to pre-war levels, all while maintaining unprecedented volumes of U.S. LNG exports.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2023
Fact #3: Energy derived from U.S. natural gas helps reduce emissions.
Anti-natural gas activists aren’t just ignoring the economic and national security benefits of natural gas – they’re also denying the well-documented climate benefits of natural gas use.
In recent months, environmental activists, led by longtime “Keep It In the Ground” advocate Bill McKibben, are using flawed research to argue that LNG exports “could do much more damage to the climate than coal.” Unsurprisingly, this claim runs counter to nearly every authoritative source of emissions data.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) states that natural gas emits less CO2 emissions than coal or other petroleum-based fuel sources, and emits less of nearly all air pollutants than other fossil fuel-based energy sources. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), an independent environmental nonprofit, provided further data on the relative emissions benefits of natural gas:
“Combustion of natural gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal and 30 percent less than oil, as well as far fewer pollutants, per unit of energy delivered.”
The Department of Energy (DOE) has even responded to the claims that LNG exports increase greenhouse gas emissions. Citing two analyses conducted by the National Energy Technology Lab, the agency explained:
“Both the 2014 and 2019 analysis concluded that that the use of U.S. LNG exports for electricity generation in European and Asian markets will not increase GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from a life cycle perspective, when compared to regional coal extraction and consumption for electricity generation.”
The evidence speaks for itself: CO2 emissions from the U.S. electric power sector have dropped by 32 percent between 2005 and 2019, and the EIA credits this drop in emissions to the switch from coal to natural gas. More recently, EIA data show that in 2022 natural gas slashed emissions by 167 MMT CO2 – more than any non-carbon source of power generation.
Faced with these facts, McKibben and his allies argue that emissions from American natural gas exports put natural gas on par with coal. But this too is a myth. Even RMI acknowledges that American natural gas exports have a lower greenhouse gas emissions footprint than other sources of energy, including foreign sources of natural gas transmitted via pipeline, and statistics from the American Petroleum Institute show that:
Source: American Petroleum Institute
And as EID’s recent analysis of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data shows, U.S. natural gas producers in each of the top-producing basins are reducing methane emissions across their operations, continuously helping to reduce the lifecycle emissions of U.S. LNG exports:
Source: EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program
Fact #4: Exporting U.S. LNG supports global climate targets.
Experts across the globe have reiterated that there are many pathways to net-zero that include continued use of oil and natural gas.
Activists’ calls to limit LNG exports are grounded in dubious “peak oil” and “peak gas” claims that have little basis in reality. According to Rystad Energy, increased natural gas production is needed to both satisfy global demand and meet decarbonization goals. Aatisha Mahajan, Vice President of exploration at Rystad Energy, put it plainly:
“Gas is increasingly considered a crucial stepping stone to a sustainable future. With reduced emissions and regional energy security goals aligned, gas is poised to play a pivotal role in the global energy transition.”
Even while putting forward “peak gas” claims that don’t line up with forecasted demand, the International Energy Agency (IEA) writes in the agency’s 2023 World Energy Outlook that investments in oil and natural gas infrastructure will continue to be critical in various emissions and growth scenarios:
“The end of the growth era for fossil fuels does not mean an end to fossil fuel investment, but it undercuts the rationale for any increase in spending.”
Claims that continued natural gas usage is incompatible with net zero goals neglects the contributions natural gas usage has already made to reducing global emissions. Looking ahead, this pessimistic view also ignores the potential of carbon reduction technologies, including carbon capture and storage (CCS). The IEA recently pointed out how CCS paired with natural gas can offer reliable, consistent, and clean power to complement renewable intermittency:
“Coal- and gas-fired power plants have been a major source of system flexibility, providing benefits essential to the operation of the electricity grid, such as inertia and frequency control. Carbon capture, storage and utilisation allows these plants to continue providing these benefits and meet long-term flexibility requirements, such as annual seasonality.”
It’s important to get the facts straight on American natural gas exports because our allies are depending on consistent, reliable American LNG exports for years to come. This year, a top E.U. energy official told the Financial Times that the European Union will rely on U.S. LNG exports for “decades” to come. The European economy remains highly dependent on imported sources of natural gas, and as such, governments and companies in the European Union and the United Kingdom are signing long-term contracts with American LNG suppliers.
Environmental activists are using litigation and advocacy to target American LNG export infrastructure, arguing that “buildout far exceeds what is needed.” But the facts are clear: restricting US LNG exports would only throw a wrench in energy security, industrial activity, and environmental progress.
Bottom Line: Longtime ”Keep It In the Ground” activists have turned their attention to natural gas, and LNG exports in particular, as the latest target in their anti-energy crusade. But the facts keep stacking up against their claims: there is broad, data-based consensus that American natural gas production and LNG exports are crucial for preserving energy security, maintaining reliable power, and reducing emissions in the United States and around the world.